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Astros announce Minor League Players of Month

The Astros’ player development department has named June’s Minor League Pitchers and Players of the Month at their four full-season affiliates and two Dominican Summer League affiliates. These awards are chosen every month by the field staff of each team.

At Triple-A Oklahoma City, RHP Nick Tropeano was named Pitcher of the Month after going 4-0 with a 2.02 ERA (eight earned runs/35 2/3 innings), 34 strikeouts and just seven walks in five starts during June. The 2011 fifth-round pick currently ranks third in the Pacific Coast League in ERA (2.38) and WHIP (0.95), and tied for eighth in strikeouts (81). After allowing four runs in his first start of the year, Tropeano has allowed three runs or less in each of his last 15 outings. Oklahoma City’s June Player of the Month award went to IF Gregorio Petit, who hit .370 (34-for-92) with five doubles, five homers, 18 RBIs and a .998 OPS (.389 on-base percentage/.609 slugging percentage) in 24 games in June.

LHP Luis Cruz received Double-A Corpus Christi’s June Pitcher of the Month honors after going 1-0 with a 1.29 ERA (three earned runs/21 innings) and 21 strikeouts in four starts during the month. The 23-year-old has posted a 5-5 record and a 3.16 ERA (24 earned runs/68 1/3 innings) with 63 strikeouts in 15 outings this season for the Hooks, holding opponents to a .228 batting average. Earning Corpus Christi’s June Player of the Month Award was OF Leo Heras, who hit .273 (18-for-66) with five doubles, one triple, two homers, 14 RBIs, six stolen bases and an .821 OPS (.351 on-base percentage/.470 slugging percentage) in 21 games in June. A native of Tijuana, Mexico, Heras was acquired from Los Diablos Rojos de Mexico of the Mexican League in August of 2013.

The Class A Advanced Lancaster Pitcher of the Month honors for June went to RHP Juan Minaya. The 23-year-old allowed just one earned run in his 9 1/3 innings of relief during the month (0.96 ERA), and struck out 10 batters with a .176 opponents’ average in his six June outings. IF Conrad Gregor took home Lancaster’s June Player of the Month award after batting .396 (38-for-96) with 11 doubles, one triple, six homers, 25 RBIs, 28 runs scored and a 1.182 OPS (.464 on-base percentage/.719 slugging percentage) in 24 games in June. A fourth-round pick in the 2013 draft out of Vanderbilt, Gregor led the California League in hits, extra base hits (18), total bases (69) and doubles during the month of June.

LHP Evan Grills was named the Class A Quad Cities June Pitcher of the Month after posting a 0.95 ERA (2 earned runs/19 innings) with just two walks and 17 strikeouts in his four appearances in June. Grills currently leads the River Bandits in innings pitched (76 2.3) and ranks seventh in the Midwest League in ERA (2.70). The club’s June Player of the Month award went to IF Tyler White, who hit .324 (22-for-68) with four doubles, one triple, five homers and a 1.079 OPS (.447 on-base percentage/.632 slugging percentage) in 22 June games. White ranks eighth in the Midwest League in OPS (.880) and sixth in OBP (.403).

In the Dominican Summer League, the Astros named a Pitcher and Player of the Month for each of their two clubs. For the DSL Astros Orange club, LHP Cristhopher Santamaria was named June Pitcher of the Month while IF Cristopher Luciano was named June Player of the Month. Santamaria went 1-1 with a 2.20 ERA and 25 strikeouts in his six June appearances. Luciano hit .301 (28-for-93) with seven doubles, one triple, two homers, 24 RBIs and an .887 OPS in 24 June games. For the DSL Astros Blue club, RHP Erasmo Pinales won Pitcher of the Month honors while IF Connor MacDonald picked up Player of the Month honors. In six June starts (five for the Astros Blue, one for the Astros Orange), Pinales went 1-0 with a 2.79 ERA (nine earned runs/29 innings) and 22 strikeouts. MacDonald, a native of Australia, hit .311 (28-for-90) with eight doubles, one triple, one homer, 17 RBIs and an .881 OPS in 25 games during the month.

Astros to be active internationally

Astros director of international Oz Ocampo will be in Venezuela on Wednesday for the start of the July 2 international signing period. He will then head to the Dominican Republic with hopes of signing some young talent, general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

The Astros once again have the largest pool of money to spend internationally at $5,015,400, and Luhnow says his club plans to be “reasonably aggressive.”

Colleague Jesse Sanchez has story about what to expect during the international signing period, as well as a list of Top 30 prospects.

“We’re hoping he comes back from both of those locations with agreements with several of what we believe will be the top players in this year’s class,” Luhnow said. “It’s a good class. It’s deep and has got pitchers, position players. I’m excited about it. I think we’re going to add a lot of depth to our system this year.”

A 16-year-old international player is eligible to sign with a Major League team between July 2 through June 15 of next year if the prospect turns 17 before Sept. 1 of this year or by the completion of his first Minor League season. Additionally, any prospect who is already 17 or older and has not previously signed a Major or Minor League contract, resides outside the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico and has not been enrolled in a high school or college in the U.S., Canada or Puerto Rico within the previous year is eligible to sign during the period.

There are also specific signing guidelines each team must follow, including penalties for exceeding spending limits.

Luhnow said offers will be made beginning Wednesday and agreements could be reached quickly in what has been described previously as a free-for-all.

“Once you sign them, it’s a matter of submitting it to Major League Baseball,” Luhnow said. “There are some kids that can’t sign until they turn 16 and that would be in later July or August, for the most part. The ones that are 16, you’ll see a lot of the top guys signed on July 2 or July 3 or right around then. We plan to be a part of that this year.”

Santana, Hernandez, Chapman on way up

The Astros are preparing to call up slugging outfield prospect Domingo Santana, along with infielder Enrique Hernandez and left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman, a baseball source told MLB.com early Tuesday.

The arrival of Santana would be the third top prospect the Astros have called up since mid-April, joining outfielder George Springer and first baseman Jonathan Singleton. Santana is rated by MLB.com as the organization’s No. 7-rated prospect.

The Astros optioned Jonathan Villar to Triple-A following Monday’s game, so Hernandez would take his place on the roster. It’s unclear what other roster moves would be made to accommodate Santana and Chapman. Veteran pitcher Jerome Williams was designated for assignment late Monday, but Anthony Bass has rejoined the team and is expected to come off the disabled list Tuesday.

Santana, one of four players acquired from the Phillies in the 2011 blockbuster deal that sent Hunter Pence to Philadelphia, was hitting .304 with 13 homers and 51 RBIs through 84 games for the RedHawks. He’s been playing right field. He would be the last of those four players to reach the Majors.

Hernandez went 3-for-5 with a home run and two doubles with a season-high four RBIs on Monday in Oklahoma City’s 10-6 win over Colorado Springs. He’s hitting .337 eight homers and 31 RBIs in 67 games for the RedHawks.

Chapman, who appeared in six games for the Astros earlier this year, has thrown in 26 games for Oklahoma City and has allowed only three earned runs in 28 2/3 innings (0.94 ERA), while striking out 37.

Astros’ statement

The Houston Astros issued the following statement this afternoon:

 “Last month, we were made aware that proprietary information held on Astros’ servers and in Astros’ applications had been illegally obtained. Upon learning of the security breach, we immediately notified MLB security who, in turn, notified the FBI.  Since that time, we have been working closely with MLB security and the FBI to the determine the party, or parties, responsible.  This information was illegally obtained and published, and we intend to prosecute those involved to the fullest extent.

“It is unfortunate and extremely disappointing that an outside source has illegally obtained confidential information.  While it does appear that some of the content released was based on trade conversations, a portion of the material was embellished or completely fabricated.”

Altuve in some rare company

• 2B Jose Altuve set an Astros franchise record by recording a steal in 6 consecutive games…has recorded multiple steals in 4 consecutive games…is the 3rd player in the Modern era and the 1st since Ray Chapman in 1917 to record multiple steals in 4 straight games…his 36 steals lead the AL and are a new career high for a single season (had 35 total steals in 2013).
• Altuve increased his Major League-leading hits total to 116 on the season…is just 7 hits shy of Bob Watson’s Astros franchise record for hits prior to the All-Star Break (123 hits set in 1973)…today was his 35th multi-hit game of the year, which leads the Majors…was his 4th consecutive multi-hit game…has recorded multiple hits in 9 of his last 12 games…has hit over .500 in his last 14 games since June 12 (.509, 28-for-55).
• Altuve hit his 100th career double today, becoming just the 12th player in franchise history to compile 100 career doubles and 100 career steals…the others are Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Cesar Cedeno, Jose Cruz, Jimmy Wynn, Terry Puhl, Kevin Bass, Bill Doran, Enos Cabell, Derek Bell and Joe Morgan

Veras joins Astros, Farnsworth outrighted

The Astros called up veteran right-hander Jose Veras from Triple-A Oklahoma City on Thursday and outrighted veteran right-hander Kyle Farnsworth off the active roster.

Farnsworth was signed by the Astros on May 17 and appeared in 16 games, posting a 6.17 ERA in 11 2/3 innings. He started the year with the Mets, who dumped him just a few days prior to him reaching $1 million salary bonus.

Veras played the first half of last season with the Astros before being traded to the Tigers and then signing with the Cubs last winter. He was projected to be the Cubs closer, but he lost that role after compiling an 8.10 ERA in 12 games.

Veras, 33, traded last midseason to Detroit after appearing in 42 games for the Astros and posted a 2.94 ERA with 19 saves in 43 innings. He was a strong presence in the Astros’ young clubhouse, and the team struggled to close out games after he was dealt.

Correa out for season with broken fibula

Astros top prospect Carlos Correa will be out for the rest of the season after undergoing surgery Wednesday to repair a fracture of his fibula just above his right ankle, general manager Jeff Luhnow said.

Correa, the dynamic 19-year-old shortstop taken with the top pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of Puerto Rico, suffered the injury Saturday night while sliding into third base on an RBI triple playing for Class A Lancaster in Lake Elsinore, Calif.

Luhnow said the surgery, which was arthroscopic, went well and he doesn’t expect there to be any long-term effects.

Correa won’t be able to put any weight on the leg for four weeks and will be in a boot afterwards. It’s unclear when he’ll be able to return to baseball activities, but the team is hopeful he can be available in October to play in the Arizona Fall League or winter ball in November.

“We’ll have to see how the rehab goes,” Luhnow said. “It’s obviously unfortunate. He’s one of our top young players in the game, losing this amount of time, but we are optimistic he’s going to return to 100 percent and will back on the field with us ready to keep doing what he’s doing.”

What Correa was doing was tearing up the Minor Leagues. He was hitting .325 with six homers and 57 RBIs in 62 games for Lancaster, with an on-base percentage of .416 and an OPS of .926, putting him line to be promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi later this year.

It was expected that Correa would come to Spring Training next year competing for a spot on the Major League club.

“I talked to him several times over the past few days and he’s taking it about as well as any young man can take it,” Luhnow said. “It’s the first time he’s been injured. He did a lot of research, we talked to several doctors. His parents are here supporting him and he went into this with a very good attitude. He’s determined to work as hard as he can on his rehab and get back as soon as he can.

“Obviously, we’re going to probably have to slow him down a little bit because we want him to heal as well as he can. And with a player like that, he’s always going to want to push the envelope, so we’re going to have to figure that out. He understands this is the nature of professional baseball and he needs to work twice as hard to get back to where he was.”

Correa played the entire 2013 season at Class A Quad Cities at 18 years old and was impressive. He hit .320 with 33 doubles, nine homers, 86 RBIs and a .405 on-base percentage. Despite being the second-youngest player in the league, he led the Midwest League in OPS (.872), while ranking second in on-base percentage and third in batting average.

Aiken and family arrive in Houston, signing close

California prep left-handed pitcher Brady Aiken, the No. 1 overall pick by the Astros in the First-Year Player Draft, arrived from San Diego on Monday with his parents in preparation for signing a contract with the Astros in the next few days.

Aiken, 17, was taken by the Astros out of Central Catholic High School in San Diego, making him only the third left-handed high school pitcher to be selected with the first overall pick, joining Brien Taylor (Yankees, 1991) and Houston’s David Clyde (Rangers, 1973).

The Astros could announce a deal with Aiken as early as Tuesday.

“It feels great,” Aiken said. “I’m excited. I’m really excited to take this next step in my life.”

MLBPipeline.com’s Jim Callis reported earlier this month the Astros and Aiken had agreed to a $6.5-million signing bonus, which would tie the record for the largest given to a high school pitcher. The Pirates gave Jameson Taillon a $6.5-million signing bonus after taking him with the second pick in 2010.

The slot value for the No. 1 overall pick is $7,922,100.

“It means a lot,” Aiken said. “It means the Astros really invested in me and they’re really looking forward to having me do what I can do for them.”

Aiken arrived with his parents, Linda and Jim Aiken, and his sister, Halle, who plays volleyball at San Diego State.

“We’re very, very excited to be here,” Jim Aiken said. “(Tuesday) is a big day for us. We’re really looking forward to it.”

Aiken posted a 7-0 record and a 1.06 ERA in 11 starts in his senior season. He was a 2014 Perfect Game first team All-American and an All-Region first team in California. He led Team USA to the gold medal at the 18-and-under World Cup in Taiwan last September by winning both of his starts — including a championship-game performance against Japan in which he struck out 10 and allowed one run over seven innings.

Once he officially signs, Aiken will likely be sent to the team’s Spring Training complex in Kissimmee, Fla. He will likely be held to a strict innings limit this summer once his season starts.

“I know all the fans and everyone are looking forward to this and I’m looking forward to it this just as much as they are,” he said. “I’m more excited than they are probably to be honest with you. I’m really excited to see what the future holds.”

Correa heading to Houston to see specialist

Shortstop Carlos Correa, the Astros’ top prospect, will be sent to Houston in the coming days to be examined by a foot and ankle specialist after he injured his right ankle sliding into third base while playing for Class A Lancaster on Saturday.

“I’m not worried at all. I’ll be back,” Correa told MLB.com “I don’t know when yet. I know it’s nothing really bad. Hopefully I’ll be back and be able to play again. I have to go to Houston and they will check it out.”

Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow released this statement:

“Carlos was examined last night at a local hospital in California,” Luhnow said.  “He will travel to Houston early this week to be evaluated further by the Astros medical staff before determining next steps.  He will be placed on the disabled list and is expected to miss some time.”

Speaking on the Astros’ pregame show on KBME (790 AM) on Sunday, Luhnow called it an “unfortunate injury.”

“Carlos is one of our, obviously, best players in the Minor Leagues, and he just plays the game so hard,” he said. “He slid into third base. He did sustain an ankle injury. We had him evaluated last night, and the next step there is we’re bringing him to Houston and he’s going to be looked at by our specialist here. We have an excellent ankle and foot specialist that works with us. We’ll know more in a couple of days.

“He is going to miss some time. I don’t know how long. We have to be very careful with any sort of ankle injury. It’s unfortunate. He’s had a tremendous season. He’s going to miss some time, but the good news is whatever time he misses, he’s going to make up for it in the fall. He’s probably going to be one of the guys we send to the Arizona Fall League.”

Correa, the top pick in the 2012 First-Year Player Draft, was carried off the field after injuring his ankle following an RBI triple in the sixth inning.

Correa, 19, was expected to be promoted to Double-A Corpus Christi soon after hitting .325 with six homers and 56 RBIs in 61 games at Lancaster. He had an on-base percentage of .417 and an OPS of .921, putting him in line to be moved up later this year.

Correa played the entire 2013 season at Class A Quad Cities at 18 years old and was impressive. He hit .320 with 33 doubles, nine homers, 86 RBIs and a .405 on-base percentage. Despite being the second-youngest player in the league, he led the Midwest League in OPS (.872), while ranking second in on-base percentage and third in batting average.

Astros sign a bunch of draft picks

The Astros signed 14 of their 2014 draft selections today, and they have been assigned to Greeneville and the Gulf Coast League. The players assigned to Greeneville are RHP Dean Deetz (11th round), IF Connor Goedert (15th round), OF Ramon Laureano (16th round), IF Antonio Nunez (18th round), C Trent Woodward (20th round), IF Bryan Muniz (22nd round), OF Sean McMullen (30th round), RHP Joshua James (34th round) and RHP Eric Peterson (37th round). The players assigned to the GCL are C Ruben Castro (19th round), C Richard Gonzalez (29th round), IF Dexture McCall (31st round), OF Edwin Medina (33rd round) and RHP Justin Ferrell (36th round).

The Astros have signed 28 of their 41 selections from the 2014 MLB Draft.

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